Sitting on the veranda – the western or lagoon facing one – this morning with my mug of black coffee (no sugar) and the iPad I did what I normally do first and read The Times online.
I don’t know why but I nearly always start off by reading the obituaries first. A morbid curiosity on my part? I don’t think so. I actually do enjoy reading the biographies of the famous and not so famous. Sometimes its the achievements of the latter that I find more interesting and (sometimes) more uplifting. The greatest pleasure I get though is being in a position to read them. Life is good and all that …
Having finished reading The Times I switched to Facebook and my feeling of joie de vivre was knocked sideways when I read the following comment that had been posted in respect of yesterday’s edition :
“If you are going to make the claim that you are a “writer,” be cognizant of your spelling, use of punctuation, and grammar…and most importantly, don’t be a retard!”.
My initial reaction was irritation but this was quickly followed and replaced by anger. What had I done to upset someone so much that they felt compelled to make public such views. What could I do in retaliation? But then my mind wandered a little -it’s apt to do that a bit nowadays – back to the days when I worked for News international and I was in attendance at a ‘Sun editorial meeting.
Kelvin MacKenzie, the Editor (and the best the newspaper has had or will ever have in my opinion) was in full flow, cajoling his team to “just f@&£#%*g go out and get the exclusives” when the phone rang. He stopped issuing his words of ‘encouragement’ (sic) and picked up the ‘phone and answered it without proffering his name to the caller.
There must have been at least twenty of us in the room at the time – all of them crack journalists (well at least that’s what they told me they were) apart from me (I was involved in the unglamorous part of the business organising delivery to the market and managing relationships with the vendors) – and we all grasped at roughly the same time that the caller had ‘phoned to complain about something that had appeared in the newspaper that morning. Wrong move with the fearsome Kelvin. He cared passionately about ‘his’ newspaper (as we all did I believe) and would not have a bad thing said about it.
By this time Kelvin had put the ‘phone on speaker and without further ado he told the caller (a man) that he was banned from ever buying The Sun again. Now bear in mind that this incident took place in the mid eighties/early nineties, long before the advent of online newspapers. The Sun, along with all of the other (lesser) newspapers, was sold by the likes of street vendors, retail outlets, supermarkets, etc. Sales channels over which we could exercise relatively little control. I mean how could Kelvin prevent this person from buying The Sun at one of the fifty thousand selling points?
Well he couldn’t but this fact didn’t dawn on the caller (some said that The Sun never had the brightest readers!) and he immediately became extremely apologetic culminating in him begging to be allowed to be able to continue buying the newspaper. Kelvin accepted his apology and told him that he had reduced the ban from lifetime to a month. The call ended and we were all free to laugh. And we did. We never did find out though if he stopped buying The Sun for a month!
My mind then wandered a bit further back in time to the early seventies when I joined News Group Newspapers, the company that Rupert Murdoch created not long after entering the British newspaper market. This period for me was amongst the most enjoyable of a very enjoyable life working in the newspaper industry. We were the upstart company. The company that defied conventional wisdom. The company that wanted to rewrite the rules.
We were to national newspaper publishing what Millwall FC were (still are for that matter) to English football. Millwall is an unglamorous club in south-east London with a loyal fan base of working class origin, many of the forebears being dock workers. In the nineteen seventies the club’s fans came in for intense criticism by the British media and the fans response was the “No one likes us, we don’t care” chant. That’s how we felt at News Group Newspapers *and we adopted the chant as our mantra.
Now what’s this got to do with the Facebook comment you’re thinking. Well I’ve still got that mantra and if I could ‘do a Kelvin’ I would ban the person from reading my stuff. But I can’t because , like for Kelvin before me, it’s ‘out there’!
With my ‘walk back in to time’ finished I returned to Facebook and posted the following response:
“Well thank you. I didn’t make a claim to be a writer, I said that I write. Given your comments it is patently clear that you do not like what I write. So, a smile solution for you. Don’t read it. You won’t me miss me and I will not miss you”.
I mentioned the incident to Rose when she came to spend time with me on the veranda and her immediate response was “Don’t you worry ’bout a thing” (she actually said “about a thing” but …).
And you know what? She was absolutely right because within just over two hours I received an apology and a retraction.
Enough of your past already, you’re probably thinking (actually I bet you were thinking it some while ago – probably around the second paragraph), what about Ambergris Caye. So for those of you thinking that thought, a few photos.
Roof trusses finished for extension to Pirate Villas.
Time for the thatching to begin.
Get the thatch up to the top floor.
Time for the female touch. Bear in mind she is around thirty-five feet above ground level.
And while I was watching the thatching? Well Rose and Ziggy were looking the other way.
“Something I said?”.
The headline for today’s (rather different edition) is based on the single released in 1973 by Stevie Wonder which reached number sixteen in the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1973.
* The Sun grew to become the largest selling daily newspaper in Britain and at one time sold over 4.3 million copies a day. So no one liked us?